Newsletter, February 2015

     
    MIT Materials News that Matters
    February 2015
     
     
    Materials Processing Center at MIT
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    Faculty Highlight: Krystyn J. Van Vliet
    MIT Associate Professor brings a material scientist's understanding to biochemical behavior in stem cells and organ tissue.
    MIT Associate Professor Krystyn J. Van Vliet holds a multi-cell chamber used for growing stem cells.
     
    With joint appointments in materials science and biological engineering, MIT Associate Professor Krystyn J. Van Vliet brings a material scientist's understanding of mechanical triggers for biochemical behavior.

    Although her group studies many non-biological materials that also show this coupling between chemistry and mechanics, biological cells and tissues are especially complex. She studies stem cells from the central nervous system and from bone marrow, as well as tissues from the brain, heart and liver.

    In recent work, Van Vliet's group has:
     
    * Shown that three biophysical markers - size, mechanical stiffness and how much the nucleus inside the cell moves around - can accurately identify stem cells in a mixed group of cells.
    * Engineered polymers that can mimic the response of human tissue to high rates of loading.
    * Established that measurements of cell fluidity, a mechanical property that ranges from 0 to 1, can detect cell responses to different chemical triggers such as salinity or physical triggers such as temperature.

     
    Mimicking Brain Tissue
    MIT graduate student Bo Qing studies synthetic gels that can dissipate mechanical energy in new ways, possibly recreating the response of brain tissue to impact injuries, which could lead to better protective gear.

    MIT graduate student Bo Qing demonstrates how he loads a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) gel onto a post used in a nanoindenter to measure the gel's impact response.

    Designing better protective gear against severe impacts for civilians and soldiers requires a detailed understanding of how soft tissues in the body actually respond to such impacts whether from concussions, ballistic attacks or blast wounds. MIT researchers are developing new synthetic polymer-solvent gels, called tissue simulant gels, which mimic the response of natural tissue.

    Biological engineering graduate student Bo Qing is studying the impact of traumatic force on brain tissue from rodents and modeling synthetic substitutes to enable better insight into preventing such injuries. "If we can design a material that mimics this impact response, it would be very helpful to serve as an injury model and use to assess new protective equipment that can minimize this harm," explains Qing, who works under MIT Associate Professor Krystyn J. Van Vliet.

    "We want to study how biological tissues like the brain, heart and liver respond to impact and then find synthetic mimics that can recapitulate those responses because they will be very helpful for the Army, for example, to devise new protective strategies and understand how injury actually occurs," Qing says. 

    Read more. 

      

    Quantifying Brain Tissue Impact
    Quantifying Brain Tissue Impact
    Mechanically Stimulating Stem Cells
    MIT graduate student Frances Liu is studying ways to alter mechanical properties of cell environments to produce desired chemical outputs.
     
     MIT biological engineering graduate student Frances Liu works with a spiral-shaped inertial microfluidic separation device for separating large diameter stem cells from small diameter cells in the Laboratory for Material Chemomechanics at MIT, working under MIT Associate Professor Krystyn J. Van Vliet. A previous study by the Van Vliet group and colleagues in the Singapore-MIT Alliance in Research and Technology established that three markers - size, mechanical stiffness and how much the nucleus inside the cell moves around - could accurately identify stem cells in a mixed group of cells. Photo, Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center.
    MIT biological engineering graduate student Frances Liu works with a spiral-shaped inertial microfluidic separation device for separating large diameter stem cells from small diameter cells in the Laboratory for Material Chemomechanics at MIT.
     

    Researchers in MIT Associate Professor Krystyn J. Van Vliet's 

    group last year showed that three biomechanical and biophysical markers could accurately identify the most desirable stem cells from a mixed group of bone marrow-derived cells. Now MIT biological engineering graduate student Frances Liu is trying to advance that work by understanding how to alter the stem cells' physical environment to get them to produce the most desirable chemical output.

    The bone marrow cells secrete special chemicals called cytokines that are needed in the body to repair bone tissue, fat tissue and connective tissue like cartilage. "These so-called factors that the cells produce are associated with those tissue growth functions and tissue repair functions," Van Vliet says.

    Read more. 

     
    Lemelson Honors Charles M. Vest, Supports Invention
     
    James Hunter heats a metal blade in hot coals to shape it in the MIT Glass Lab and Forge.

    MIT has received a $1 million gift from The Lemelson Foundation to establish a fund to encourage student invention. The gift was made in memory of the late Charles M. Vest, former president of MIT.Vest, who served as MIT's president from 1990 to 2004, died in December 2013. The gift creates the Lemelson-Vest Fund for Student Invention to honor his "contributions to the inventive capabilities of generations of engineers," according to The Lemelson Foundation.The Lemelson-Vest Fund will support hands-on experiences for MIT undergraduate and graduate students in the Institute's Glass Lab, Foundry, Forge, and other fabrication facilities within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE).

      

    Read more. 

    IN OTHER NEWS

    Tackling OLEDs' "Achilles' heel" 

    MIT alumnus Conor Madigan, the Kateeva co-founder and CEO who co-invented YIELDjet. Photo, courtesy of Kateeva.
    MIT alumnus Conor Madigan, the Kateeva co-founder and CEO who co-invented YIELDjet. Courtesy photo.
    Inkjet-printing system could enable mass-production of large-screen and flexible OLED displays.
    MIT spinout Kateeva has developed an "inkjet printing" system for organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays - based on years of Institute research - that could cut manufacturing costs enough to pave the way for mass-producing flexible and large-screen models.
     

    Read more. 

      

    Fiber Draw Transforms Materials
    New approach could enable low-cost silicon devices in fibers that could be made into fabrics.
     
    Graduate student Chong Hou holds a leftover silica preform after it has been used. The tapering tip shows how the preform is stretched to make long strands of fiber while in the furnace. Photo, Jose-Luis Olivares, MIT.
    Graduate student Chong Hou holds a leftover silica preform after it has been used. The tapering tip shows how the preform is stretched to make long strands of fiber while in the furnace. Photo, Jose-Luis Olivares, MIT.

    Scientists have known how to draw thin fibers from bulk materials for decades. A long-term research effort at MIT to develop multifunctional fibers that incorporate different materials into a single long functional strand could lead to a whole new way of making high-quality fiber-based electronic devices.

      
    For the first time, fibers created through this method can have a composition that is completely different from that of the starting materials - an advance that senior author Yoel Fink refers to as a kind of "alchemy," turning inexpensive and abundant materials into high-value ones.

    Read more. 

      

    Upcoming Events
     
    2015 MRS Spring Meeting & ExhibitApril 6-10, 2015  San Francisco, Calif.

    Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation  April 8, Hyatt Regency, Cambridge, Mass.

    Cambridge Science Festival, April 17-26, 2015.

     
    Materials Day Symposium and Poster Session, Oct. 14, 2015 
     
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    For more information contact Mark Beals at 617-253-2129 or mbeals@mit.edu
    About MPC

    The goals of the Materials Processing Center are to unite the materials research community at MIT and to enhance Institute-industry interactions. Collaboration on research ventures, technology transfer, continuing education of industry personnel, and communication among industrial and governmental entities are our priorities. The MPC 
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